The Definitive Guide to Staying Productive and Motivated
RRRRRINNGGGG! Its 7:00 AM. I put my head over my pillow to drone out the noise.
RRRRINNNNNGGGGG – there it goes again! Ah, I really don’t want to get up and go to work today…
Sleepily, I wander over to the shower. I jump out, put on some clothes, grab some breakfast, and head off to work.
Once I’m in the office, I start perking up. I suddenly remember I have lots of things to do. The day starts flying by. Before I know it, it’s time to go home.
Sometimes the hardest part of working is just getting started. I’m not just talking about getting up in the morning. There are times when I just don’t feel like writing, but I force myself to sit down and churn out a few paragraphs. Before I know it, I’m on a roll…I end up staying up half the night at my computer.
This inertia especially kicks in when we’re working alone, without anyone to keep us going. It is very easy to say “I’ll just do it later” or “Can’t it wait awhile?” When you say these things too often, you’ll find yourself on a slippery slope towards missed opportunities. Good things don’t come along very often and putting in the effort is the only way to maximize the results. The last thing you want is to say that you should have tried harder.
So how do you motivate yourself to get moving? A good place to start is by understanding the different types of motivators. There are many ideas on this, but here’s a list of motivators that drive most people. Figure out what matters to you by asking yourself these questions.
- Family: Do you want to see your loved ones cared for? Do you want them to succeed? Do you need to support them financially?
- Money: Do you value financial freedom and independence? How important are material possessions to you? Do you like living well?
- Outside Expectations: Do you care about what others think of you? This isn’t always easy to admit, but it can be a very powerful motivator.
- Credibility: Do you value following through on your commitments? Do you care about being trusted?
- Accomplishment: Do you enjoy overcoming obstacles and taking pride in your achievements?
- Passion: Is there anything that you unconditionally enjoy doing?
There’s a good chance that all of these things matter to you on some level. But some will certainly be more important than others. These are the things that will motivate you the most, the things that will help you get up in the morning no matter how down you are feeling that day.
For me, the most important things are family, money, and credibility. I care about my loved ones, I value financial freedom, and I need to be trusted. These realizations have been powerful motivators. When I make a commitment, I am motivated to follow through. I care more about my career trajectory, and I make time for the people I care about most (my family below).
So now that you know what motivates you, the next step is to get started. This is often quite overwhelming, so here are a few things that can help you jump-start your productivity.
Short-term rewards: When shooting for long-term goals (such as the success of a new venture or losing weight), it takes time to see the fruits of your labors. Try motivating yourself with little treats (a fun day trip, a favorite food). This way, you’ll constantly be able to look forward to something.
Baby steps: One of the hardest parts about getting started is trying to see the end. It looks like an enormous amount of work and can be discouraging. Instead, try to break your project down into little chunks. Treat each chunk as a separate goal; this way, the whole process looks far more achievable. As you make progress, you’ll become more and more motivated.
Schedule time off: Make sure that you have time for rest and relaxation. If you build it into your schedule, you’ll feel burned out less often. Another tip: Create short-term rewards through structured break time. There are so many distractions on the internet; personally I enjoy blog surfing and g-chatting with my friends. It’s very easy to tell yourself you’re taking a “short break” and end up getting sucked into hours of leisure time. Instead, create a set time in the day for these activities and stick to it. This time should be later in the day, after you’ve already gotten some productive work done.
Of course, it’s not just enough to get started, you also need to make sure you stay productive. These six tips can help you keep on track as you move along.
- Focus on accomplishing goals. Lots of people think that more hours = more productivity. I know many people who get more done in four hours than others do in twelve. It’s far more valuable to focus on some tangible goal, which forces you to do actual work rather than just count down the minutes till you call it a day.
- Write shorter emails: Most people don’t like reading long e-mails, so why bother writing them? There are exceptions to this, but you can effectively respond to the vast majority of e-mails with a few sentences or less.
- Limit meetings. Meetings are the ultimate time-sink. Instead, try to figure out ways to convey the information faster and more effectively. E-mails and written documents are both steps in the right direction.
- Take a Short Break. Sometimes we just hit a wall and can’t push ourselves forward. If this happens to you, take a short break to clear your head. Walk around a bit; get some fresh air by walking outside. Take a few deep breaths. Fifteen minutes of relaxation can result in a major boost of productivity.
- Clear Your Desk. Physical clutter often makes it hard to concentrate. We feel flustered and overwhelmed when our desks are covered in paper. Take a few minutes to get things in order. It will help you reassess priorities and refocus your mind on the relevant tasks.
- Organize Your To-Do List: The to-do list helps you organize your priorities for the day, but the truth is that we rarely get through everything on the list. There just isn’t enough time. Instead, highlight two or three items that you feel are the most important. Focus on getting these done; this way you can feel you’ve accomplished a good day’s work even if you don’t get through the whole list.
How do you stay motivated? Please share in the comments.